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Duncan sinks 37 to lead San Antonio past L.A. and into conference finals

Spurs finish Lakers

Posted: Friday, May 16, 2003

LOS ANGELES Kobe Bryant left the court in tears as the three-year championship reign of the Los Angeles Lakers came to a decisive end.

''I hate this feeling, I don't ever want to feel it again,'' Bryant said Thursday night after a 110-82 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

The Spurs, the last team other than Los Angeles to win an NBA title, had been ousted by the Lakers in each of the past two seasons.

''We've been put down by these guys the last couple of years,'' Tim Duncan said after getting 37 points and 16 rebounds to lead the wipeout. ''More than ending their reign, that felt a lot better ending their season and going on.''

Tony Parker, who turns 21 Saturday, added 27 points for the Spurs, who scored 44 of the game's final 62 points.

The Lakers were the league's best in 2000, '01 and '02 but they won't join the Boston Celtics as the only NBA teams to win more than three straight championships. The Celtics won eight straight from 1959-66.

The Lakers had won 13 straight playoff series under coach Phil Jackson, and were 4-0 under Jackson when facing elimination.

In this one, though, they were tired and beat-up and out of contention by midway through the fourth quarter.

The last team to eliminate the Lakers from the playoffs was San Antonio, which swept them in the 1999 conference semifinals en route to its only championship. The Lakers hired Jackson shortly thereafter.

The Lakers swept the Spurs in the 2001 conference finals, beating them by 39 and 29 points in the last two games. And the Lakers eliminated the Spurs in five games in the conference semifinals last year.

Jackson-coached teams had won a record 25 consecutive playoff series dating to 1996, and his nine titles are tied for the most in NBA history with former Boston coach Red Auerbach.

There won't be a 10th at least not until next year.

''They left no doubt about the fact that they were the better team in this series,'' said Jackson, who underwent an angioplasty to unblock an artery last Saturday. ''We're severely disappointed we couldn't make a run for the championship.

''We've had a great run, we've had great play. We've gotten a little bit older, we had some injuries, we had a tough year.''

The Lakers overcame an 11-19 start to finish 50-32 and were seeded fifth in the West. The Spurs (60-22) have homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.

''We finally played the defense in the second half that got us to this point,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

Regarding the Lakers, Popovich said: ''I've been amazed at what they've done. They've been great, they are great.''

Shaquille O'Neal led the Lakers with 31 points and 10 rebounds. He was removed with 4:34 remaining and the Spurs leading 98-76.

Christie had 20 points, nine rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a steal to lead the Kings to a 115-109 victory over the Mavericks on Thursday night, evening their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series at 3-3.

Kings coach Rick Adelman threw his arm up in the air in excitement during the final seconds. Game 7 is Saturday night in Dallas.

The Mavs remain one win away from their second trip to the conference finals, while the Kings' quest for the franchise's first title in 52 years is still alive.

Van Exel scored 35 points on 15-for-23 shooting in 37 minutes, and the Kings had no one who could guard him. He leapt high for a rebound and scored on a putback with 8:16 left for a 95-94 lead, but the Mavs then went cold and didn't get another basket for 5:05.

Dirk Nowitzki added 21 points and 12 rebounds for Dallas, while Michael Finley had 21 points, seven boards and four assists.

Peja Stojakovic had 24 points and 10 rebounds for the Kings, who played their fourth game in the series without injured star Chris Webber. Sacramento overcame a sluggish first quarter and converted 31 of 32 free throws, including 30 straight.

Reserves Bobby Jackson and Jim Jackson had 21 and 16 points, respectively.

Dallas, eliminated in five games by Sacramento last season, did not want to go the distance in this series after being pushed to the limit by Portland in the first round.



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